PTSD and TBI: What the VA, Defense Department Are Doing

The PTSD Coach application can be downloaded free for use on most smartphones. VA image.

Here’s an end of  the year update on the handling  of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) by the departments of Defense and Veterans’ Affairs. The conditions have become the signature “invisible” wounds of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

It was less than three years ago that the Rand Corporation released a study, Invisible Wounds of War,  showing PTSD and TBI go unrecognized, undiagnosed and untreated among many returning combat veterans.

Since that study, there have been significant changes as detailed in a Craig Collins  story for the Defense Media Network online:

One of the first changes made in the wake of the RAND report was the Pentagon’s implementation of mandatory screening programs for all personnel returning from war zones, both for PTSD and TBI. For TBI, the screening, detection, tracking, research, and outreach activities of both the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are carried out by the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC).

The article also looks at how the coexistence of  PTSD and TBI in veterans has led the VA to revise its clinical practice guidelines for treatment:

Emerging evidence suggests, also, that treatments for service members with PTSD can be successful regardless of whether a patient has suffered a TBI. As Dr. Matthew Friedman, executive director of the National Center for PTSD, explained, the two best treatments for PTSD are psychotherapies: prolonged exposure therapy, which requires emotional processing of the event and becoming conditioned to fears, and cognitive processing therapy, which involves understanding the ways in which trauma has changed a patient’s view of him/herself and the world.

Yet, a federal court of appeals ruled that the VA is not doing enough nor is it acting quickly enough serving veterans with PTSD and other psychological health needs who have filed VA disability claims:

408,167 veterans with a primary or secondary diagnosis of PTSD received treatment at VA medical centers and clinics in 2010; this number, combined with another statistic – by the VA’s own estimation, only about 36 percent of the veterans who are eligible for its benefits and programs sign up to receive them – suggests that many, perhaps tens of thousands, are simply being missed by an overburdened system.

You can read the full story, “PTSD and TBI: Where We Are Now,” HERE.


4 Responses

  1. Will post the original article on Facebook and yours as Shrinks Think post sometime next week or would you like to do something as a guest blogger. Let me know. Thank you for all you do.

    I have studied PSTD for years. My main concern is that poorly done debriefings–not building in enough safety and self-soothing skills strengthens the flashbacks instead of diminishing them. We know so little in the mental health field and many who practice are incompetent.

    I developed Emotional Fitness Training to combat stigma and to build self soothing skills.

    Thank you again for all you are doing on many fronts.

  2. I believe that the VA needs to contract out the treatment, at least for PTSD, with therapists skilled in using effective treatments. Depending on how things go, they might need to contract out the assessments as well to an independent consultant.

  3. […] = ''; } Hyperbaric oxygen treatment improves TBI and PTSD in VeteransPTSD and TBI: What the VA, Defense Department Are Doing /* wpsociallock, so that facebook's button will be aligned with tweet button */ .fb_iframe_widget […]

  4. PTSD is a very serious thing for veterans, and what’s also so scary is that many cases go undiagnosed, as this article points out. I found this great link with techinques for dealing with PTSD. You might want to take a look, if you are interested:

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